- The Washington Times - Friday, November 15, 2002

STEVENSVILLE, Md. Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday added another building block to his environmental legacy, issuing an executive order mandating a $4 billion effort to reduce the amount of nitrogen flowing into the Chesapeake Bay from sewage-treatment plants.
But it will be up to his successor, Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., to implement the plan and find the money to pay for it.
Mr. Ehrlich spoke during the gubernatorial campaign about the need to improve wastewater-treatment plants, which he said are a major source of two key pollutants, nitrogen and phosphorus.
"It's consistent with Bob's proposals for fixing faulty treatment plants. The challenge is going to be to find the money to do it," said Ehrlich spokesman Paul Schurick.
However, Mr. Schurick criticized the timing of the announcement, two months before Mr. Glendening leaves office.
"It's a political setup. We recognize that," Mr. Schurick said, comparing it to tough, new limits on arsenic in drinking water imposed by President Clinton before leaving office.
The executive order is not binding, and Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, can rescind it when he becomes governor.
Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, said he thinks Mr. Ehrlich was exactly right during the campaign when he said the most important thing that can be done to improve water quality is to make treatment plants more efficient at removing nitrogen.
The governor said Maryland will need significant federal help to meet the nitrogen-reduction goals. But he said the cost of upgrading plants would be only $5 to $14 a year in additional sewage-treatment charges for homeowners.
If Marylanders were asked if they would be willing to pay that to protect water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, "very few families would say, 'I don't want to do my part,'" the governor said.
The executive order does not include a timetable for upgrading all plants, and Mr. Glendening said it would take years to complete the task.
The governor said his order would put Maryland on the road to meeting the nitrogen-reduction goals for 2010 included in the Chesapeake Bay agreement and set an example for Virginia and Pennsylvania, the other two states in the Bay compact.
"Maryland will show we can do it one plant at a time," Mr. Glendening said.
The order directs the Department of the Environment to draft regulations mandating that treatment plants use improved technology to remove more nitrogen from wastewater before it is dumped into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The governer said the stricter standards would apply when plants are built, expanded or renovated.
Mr. Glendening's action drew plaudits from environmentalists.
Theresa Pierno, Maryland director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said sewage-treatment plants are "a smart target, an easy target."
"The technology is available," she said. "It's there waiting for us to do it."


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